Wishflowers

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This is my very first published short story. I liked some of the images and ideas from this story so much that I expanded it into a novel ~~A Feast of Weeds~~ that's going to be published Summer 2014.  Hope you like this story as much as I had fun writing it!

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Wishflowers

I surveyed my neighborhood like I imagined a criminal might. Across from my house stood two empty ones, windows boarded up—easy copper. Just three lots over, a house with chipped paint, overgrown grass and a sagging, neglected porch made itself another target. A fourth house stood ripe for the trucks and the vagabonds and the thieves—Aisha, Carl and their daughter had moved from it before the final notice posted. They left in the middle of a Thursday night so as not to draw the neighborhood’s attention. Still, their leaving woke me, as if I could sense their friendship evaporating from the street. I’d crept to the window and used my index finger to raise the blind slat and did not turn on the lights during my vigil. 

I watched and waited again, now, because the vans liked to enter our neighborhood early on Mondays to catch people at work or sleeping or still hung-over.  The first time the red box van drove into the neighborhood, I couldn’t make out the lettering, but after the fifth time, I knew the yellow-sprayed letters said “C U Move”. Its engine had a distinct rumble-and-cough that vibrated the single pane windows and shook my lungs and rattled my stomach and stopped my heart as if I were at my old elementary school’s fair watching the prize-winning wheel spin to a stop. Two police cars always followed, just in case. 

I knew the ear-splitting screech of the metal roll top door would sound as soon as they located their target, and I thought today they would stop at Gabriela’s faded-yellow bungalow, or Keshi and Aditi’s pastel-blue Craftsman across the street. They would come for us, but I did not think they would come so soon. After all, only four months had passed. Most people hit six, and sometimes the rumor mill spoke of someone reaching nine or, as if having hit the lottery, twelve months.  

For what seemed the millionth time, I imagined what I would do when it was our turn: my scramble for paperwork and photographs and all those other items we felt we couldn’t live without and so had boxed in preparation. I imagined my hurried steps to a neighbor’s phone to call Dylan’s work—we’d turned off the landline months ago. I pictured myself stoically standing on the sidewalk as they emptied the house while the neighbors with well-trimmed lawns, perfectly-straight porches and fresh-painted exteriors happily watched it all go. Not that there was much left of our possessions, not after the selling blitz three months before, or the zoning fine we’d paid because a neighbor reported us holding more garage sales than permitted in a six month period. 

A rumble-and-cough drew my attention back to the street. The early sunlight bounced off the red hood and into my eyes as the van drove into our neighborhood. Two police cars, lights off, followed the van as it shot past Gabriela’s bungalow. I waited for them to stop at Keshi’s place, but then the red box van stopped in front of our house, and it rode up onto the sidewalk all the way to the first pathway stone, and it blocked the neighborhood and the sun and the hope.  I dropped the blind, back-stepped to the very center of the living room and shut my eyes. I willed them to knock on someone else’s door and then held myself from shaking to pieces, like my father had helped me practice after the many times I returned home from a bad day at school. 

I could see my father clearly, how he’d always waited in the front yard for me to come home from the fifth grade, the grade I remember the most for all the wrong reasons. He usually kept his hands behind him, holding back some kind of present—almost always an orange, his favorite afternoon snack. The unspoken rules of our game: first my father would ask, “How was school?” and then I shared a good story before winning whatever he hid.

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